The Ginger Lily, a Gift That Gives and Gives

Gardening is a joyous thing. Getting your hands in the earth, watching plants sprout, and nurturing them to maturity are amazing feelings. Also sharing your plants with friends, neighbors, new gardeners and old gardeners are gifts that continue to give, not only to the recipients, ornamental gingerbut also to the giver, leaving all of us with a sense of community. Gardeners like to share. Over the years I have had generous gifts from friends, family, neighbors, and clubs. Master gardeners bring in cuttings, bulbs, and plants to share at meetings and the Garden Club of Gloucester holds an annual plant exchange, a well-attended meeting where we save the best of our gardens for each other.

Three years ago, a horticulturist neighbor appeared at our door bearing gifts from his garden, rhizomes of the butterfly ginger lily, or simply the ginger lily, a tropical perennial in our area and a cousin of culinary ginger with a white bloom that sweetens the air.  Plant it I did and I waited. The first year green growth broke through the ground late in the summer but it seemed to be vertically challenged and died back in the winter. The second summer, the ginger lily gave us a few blooms from mid-summer to fall.  This summer there is an explosion of the long clusters of wonderfully fragrant white flowers that resemble butterflies.

The Ginger Lily, Hedychium coronarium, is a native of India and is a popular landscape plant throughout the Gulf Coast, California, and subtropical areas worldwide.  In moderate climates of North America and Europe, it is tropical perennial where it dies back in the winter but re-emerges each year. It is grown in full sun to dappled shade and moderately moist soil. Leaves are lance-shaped and the plant grows to a height of 4′ feet in my garden, but can grow up to 6′ tall. Propagate by cutting the rhizome into 8″ pieces and replant or gift to another gardener.

As we sit by the pond on cool autumn evenings, drifts of the heavenly gardenia-like fragrances are carried not only from our own ginger, but also from our neighbors’ gardens for it is also known as the “Pass-along” plant, one that has been shared with neighbors living along the shoreline in our small community.  How divine!

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

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10 thoughts on “The Ginger Lily, a Gift That Gives and Gives

  1. Can you eat the root of this particular variety or make ginger tea with it? A landscape architect told me you could, but I am not sure he is correct? Please reply before i die from the tea. LOL

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    • Oh dear! I’m not an expert here but I don’t think I would make tea unless I knew more. Your landscape architect certainly knows more than I do. I think Ginger Root, a different plant, may be good for tea. I know Ginger Lily fragrances are in soap and lotions. I hope you’ll comment when you hear more.

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  2. I live in MA (zone 5), my home is in India and we practically have a forest of butterfly ginger lilies in our backyard! This year I bought 2 rhizomes from ebay and have started them in a planter . I bought them pretty late and the leaves have just started to peep out!! It is not winter hardy in our zone by any chance,right?
    Thank you so much!!

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    • I can only imagine the forest of ginger lily in your yard in India. Alas, I have not heard of ginger lilies surviving north of zone 7b. If the ground freezes hard, the rhizomes will freeze. They would make nice potted plants, left outdoors and watered (not soggy) and fertilized well in the summer, then tucked into a dry, protected place during the winter after the foliage has died back. I would use a large pot and divide the rhizomes regularly… because in time they will outgrow the biggest pot. As you know from India, they grow in huge spreading clumps in the garden. Let us know how they do.

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      • Thanks a ton for the reply! I love your blog, the photographs are FANTASTIC!!! I’ll let you know how my ginger lilies do.

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